By Georgie Hay, Contributing Reporter
RIO DE JANEIRO, BRAZIL – The beaches of Rio’s Zona Sul (South Zone) are filled with vendors selling a mix of snacks and drinks, and the adjacent streets filled with a variety of eateries to sustain every kind of craving. With so many options it is possible to spend sunrise to sunset at the beach and not lose sight of the sand all day.
The diversity of Brazil is reflected in its beach cuisine, taking inspiration from Europe, the Middle East, Africa and the nations indigenous regions. This rich mix can be seen in the numerous vendors weaving their way through beach chairs and cangas (a type of thin Brazilian sarong also typically used as a beach towel).
Smells of hot salgados (savory snacks) being carried by vendors such as esfihas, flat bread with various middle eastern spiced filling, coxinhas, deep-fried chicken pockets, and pastels, fried parcels of cheese, meat or fish, can easily tempt a peckish sunbather.
Carrying a small grill, the queijo coalho vendor, will grill a salty cheese similar to halloumi in front of you and dip in herbs before handing to you on a wooden stick. Elsewhere, the men carrying the large plastic bags are sellers of another traditional Brazilian beach snacks, Globo Biscoitos (cookies). The famous puffed crisps are sold in two varieties: salgado (salty) with green labeling on the package and doce (sweet) with red labeling.
A key ingredient of a Brazilian diet is the Amazonian super food açai. Found at kiosks lining the promenade and served by roaming vendors, this antioxidant rich fruit is blended with ice and served like a frozen smoothie with a choice of toppings. “If i’m feeling peckish I love to munch down an ice cold açai with granola” says British expatriate Charli Payne, “it’s so tasty and refreshing under the hot Rio sun.”
Another staple of the Brazilian diet is coconut water, agua de coco. Opened to order and best served chilled, the beach barracas and kiosks will expertly slice a hole for your straw in the top with a machete. High in potassium and electrolytes, agua de coco is the perfect way to rehydrate after a day in the sun.
For those after more than a snack, the kiosks along the promenade offer more substantial meals with grilled meat or fish with fries and sandwiches usually on offer. The kiosks along Copacabana beach provide a greater selection than most and some also provide live music.
Nelly De Blanck, a Danish national who has been living in Rio for three years recommends “Espetto Carioca at the bottom of Pedra do Leme.” This kiosk perched at the very end of Leme beach, wraps around the fisherman’s walk has an extensive food menu with “nice views back over the beach, beautiful sunsets and almost always with live music”
continues De Blanck.
The only full restaurant on the beach in Rio is at the Hotel Arpoador, towards Posto 7, which offers great sunset views with a more sophisticated menu at their restaurant, Temporada. Led by Argentinian chef Christian Garcia, diners can eat breakfast, lunch and dinner alfresco on the cobblestones to the sound of the waves.
Perhaps the most famous barraca in Rio is Barraca do Uruguay. Positioned in front of Posto 9 (Lifeguard Post 9) in Ipanema, the stand is one of the oldest and most talked about on the beach. Achieving fame for its caipirinhas and ice cold beers, it is best known for its made-to-order sandwiches. At R$12, the sandwiches, offered with a variety of meats and special sauce on thick bread, are a filling snack if not a full meal.
Part of living in Rio’s Zona Sul is being on or around the beach. For those playing sport or looking for a snack, it is no surprise there are plenty of options available without loosing sight of the sand and waves.